Programs

Four programs deliver the outcomes of the Soil CRC

Program 1 – Investing in high performance soils

Associate Professor Catherine Allan – Charles Sturt University

Program 2 – Soil performance metrics

Dr Richard Doyle – University of Tasmania

Program 3 – New products to increase fertility and production

Professor Nanthi Bolan – The University of Newcastle

Program 4 – Integrated and precision soil management solutions

Dr Lukas Van Zwieten – Department of Primary Industries, NSW

Underpinning each Soil CRC program is our education and training program.

Investing in high performance soils

Supporting farmers to maintain the long-term integrity and fertility of soils for future generations.

Farmers need a new way to get higher returns from their investment. So far, the returns from good long-term soil stewardship have been marginal at best.

Farmers need premium prices for their produce, and there may be opportunities to be paid for providing ecological services such as carbon sequestration.

To reward sustainable soil management, the market needs a supportive policy framework and sustained innovation of new more cost-effective technologies.

Program One – Investing in high performance soils will use participatory research methods, decision modelling, surveys, case studies and bio-economic modelling. The Soil CRC deliver tools and resource to support policy-makers, financiers, suppliers, and farmers to adopt and make use of these incentives.

Related Projects

Soil performance metrics

Developing tools linked to soil management products that allow farmers to monitor and assess the performance of their soils, and take corrective action where needed.

Farmers need to measure soil performance accurately and quickly in order to properly manage their soils. Without this, the costs are prohibitive, and the results are varied.

Program 2 – Soil performance metrics will define the metrics of a high performing soil and create the instruments for farmers to measure their soils on the farm. The Soil CRC will use advanced instrumentation, optimisation, sensor/data fusion and big data analytics methodologies to deliver practical tools ready for farmers to use.

Related Projects

New products to increase fertility and function

Developing a range of new products to better address challenges in soil management.

A limited range of products is currently available for farmers to manage complex soil constraints.

Program 3 – New products to increase fertility and function will use soil science, nanotechnology, environmental and analytical chemistry, to develop new fertilisers, soil amendments and delivery mechanisms for farmers to enhance the performance of their soils.

These products will introduce emerging technologies – such as polymers, nanotechnology and biotechnology – and use innovative ways to mine nutrients from waste streams.

Related Projects

Integrated and precision soil management solutions

Synthesising our current understanding of soil science and how it should be applied to the key soil types across Australia under irrigation and dryland agriculture.

Farmers and industry already know they need integrated and intelligent on-farm solutions for managing their soils.

Despite the complex and multiple constraints that most farmers face, much of the research over the last two decades was directed at only addressing single problems.

Program 4: Integrated and precision soil management solutions will produce a range of tools that bring together our current understanding of land management, artificial intelligence, soil science, optimisation and big data analytics, and apply it to the key soil types across Australia.

Related Projects

Program Leaders

    Associate Professor Catherine Allan

    Charles Sturt University

    Catherine Allan is Associate Professor in Environmental Sociology and Planning at the Albury campus of Charles Sturt University (CSU). She held a variety of agency rural land management extension roles in Victoria and South Australia before becoming an academic in 2001. Catherine’s research explores regional scale adaptive management of ‘natural resources’. As an experienced community facilitator, Catherine has particular interests in social learning and systems thinking to support sustainable relationships among human and biophysical elements. As well as research and supervision, Catherine has been the Presiding Officer of the CSU Human Research Ethics Committee since 2014, and was Associate Director of the Institute for Land Water and Society from 2014 to 2017.

    CSU Profile

    Dr Richard Doyle

    University of Tasmania

    Dr Richard Doyle’s career includes over 23 years’ experience in tertiary education with undergraduate teaching, PhD, Masters and Honours project supervision. He has worked in many areas of soil and earth sciences, natural resource assessment and management, industry innovation and more recently, global food security. Alongside this, he has also worked in forestry, construction and mining for both government and industry organisations. Dr Doyle has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Geology and Physical Geography from Victoria University of Wellington and a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Tasmania.

    Dr Doyle has held multiple leadership roles including Head of the School of Agricultural Science and President of Soil Science Australia. He has operated as a project leader for major research projects relating to soil science. He has supervised over 18 research higher degrees (PhD/Masters) and more than 30 honours research projects. Dr Doyle has won multiple teaching, academic and community service awards.

    UTAS Profile

    Professor Nanthi Bolan

    University of Newcastle

    Professor Nanthi Bolan completed his PhD in Soil Science and Plant Nutrition at the University of Western Australia, and is currently working as a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Newcastle. His teaching and research interests include agronomic value of manures, fertilisers and soil amendments, soil acidification, nutrient and carbon cycling, greenhouse gas emission, soil remediation, and waste and wastewater management.

    Nanthi is a Fellow of the American Soil Science Society, the American Society of Agronomy and the New Zealand Soil Science Society, and was awarded the Communicator of the Year award by the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Sciences. He has supervised more than 50 postgraduate students, and was awarded the Massey University Research Medal for excellence in postgraduate students’ supervision. He has published more than 300 book chapters and journal papers, and was awarded the M.L. Leamy Award by NZ Soil Science Society in recognition of the most meritorious contribution to soil science.

    UON Profile

    Lukas Van Zwieten

    NSW Department of Primary Industries

    Dr Lukas Van Zwieten completed his PhD in Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science at the University of Sydney in 1995. He is a Senior Principal Research Scientist with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and an Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross University. His postgraduate supervision and research interests include carbon and nutrient cycling, soil function, ecotoxicology and impacts of agricultural chemicals, management practices and climate change on soil resilience. Lukas was awarded the 2016 NSW Premiers Award for Public Sector Science and Engineering, is a Churchill Fellow and a Member of Soil Science Australia. His research has been popularised through Landline (1999), ABC’s Catalyst program (2007), a CNN “special report” in 2008, ABC’s Landline (2009) and Discovery Channel’s “Ecopolis” mini-series in 2009/10. He has published more than 100 book chapters and journal papers and has several highly cited works.

    NSW Department of Primary Industries Profile

    Projects

    Project 1.1.01

    Activating markets to create incentives for improved soil management literature scoping study.

    Project 1.1.01

    Professor Mark Morrison – Project Leader
    Charles Sturt University

    The project will develop a user manual for selecting, adapting and where necessary, creating and implementing market-based instruments.

    Market-based instruments involve the identification or creation of financial or other incentives and, where needed, the removal or reduction of disincentives, for improved soil management within consumer or other markets.
    The team of researchers from CSU, UTAS, USQ and UON working on this output are developing potential project ideas in this area. They will identify key issues and stakeholders, clarify program objectives and scope out potential project areas.

    They will liaise with Soil CRC industry partners to clarify issues, provide an overview of market-based incentives, gauge their support for proposed projects and get insights into potential modifications to future projects.

    Related Programs

    Project 1.1.02

    How better soil management could affect property prices*.

    Project 1.1.02

    Professor Mark Morrison – Project Leader
    Charles Sturt University

    The goal of this project is to understand how soil management practices influence property prices, so farmers can better understand the pay-off from investments in improving soil management. A hedonic pricing model that uses internal and external factors to determine a property’s value or price will be applied.

    Hedonic pricing models measure the effect of identified factors on future property prices through statistical analyses that determine the relationship between different data points. To build a hedonic pricing model, it is critical to collect data about property prices and the identified factors. This is what this project will primarily seek out to achieve.

    The project has three components:

    1. Data collection of property sale prices
    2. Data collection of contributing factors from a farmer perspective
    3. Training of a research officer in hedonic pricing model analysis

    The project team will collect and build datasets on the following:

    • Sources and availability of data required for hedonic price analysis,
    • Soil feature and soil management databases and geographic information system (GIS) layers,
    • Property sale prices,
    • A range of other property characteristics including (farm size, fencing, slope, yield, vegetation, presence of a house, farm infrastructure, accessibility etc.), and
    • Farmer contact details.

    The project will involve interviews with farmers and property agents to better understand the factors influencing farmers when purchasing properties.

    *This project has additional funding provided by the NSW Government Department of Industry’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program (RAAP).

    Related Programs

    Project 1.2.01

    Scoping systems of acceptance of improved soil management, with a focus on decision support systems and tools.

    Project 1.2.01

    Associate Professor Catherine Allan – Project Leader
    Charles Sturt University

    The Soil CRC will produce various outputs and products with the potential to increase the performance of agricultural soils in Australia. Farmers will only adopt and invest in products that are relevant, and to do this they need access to decision support systems (DSS). A comprehensive review will determine the range, availability and suitability of existing DSS relevant to soil management.

    The objective is to indicate the scope for the Soil CRC to use existing farmer decision support interfaces for the uptake and use of research outputs.

    This scoping study review will consider the broader context as well as scope the existing DSS, and will therefore support the outputs of the Soil CRC.

    They will run a series of facilitated on-line and in-person meetings among approximately 20 Soil CRC members working with Program 1.2 and 1.3, and in other Soil CRC Programs, in particular Program 4.

    Related Programs

    Project 1.4.01

    Innovation capability building*.

    Project 1.4.01

    Professor David Falepau – Project Leader
    Charles Sturt University

    Through this project, the Soil CRC will build long term innovation capability within the participating organisations. It will establish innovation partnership agreements and complete innovation strategic plans with Soil CRC partner farmer groups. Innovation programs are often generic, so to avoid this, a program will be tailored to the needs of the Soil CRC participants (including farmer groups) and innovations will be targeted towards achieving greater economic returns on investment in good soil stewardship.

    Over the longer term, it is intended the program will integrate across all of the Soil CRC Programs, and participants creating an innovation eco-system targeted at high performance soils.

    The building of long term innovation capability within participating organisations is intended to extend the benefits of the Soil CRC investment well beyond the life of the Soil CRC.

    *This project has additional funding provided by the NSW Government Department of Industry’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program (RAAP).

    Related Programs

    Project 2.1.01

    A review of indicators of soil health and function: farmers’ needs and data management.

    Project 2.1.01

    Associate Professor Peter Dahlhaus – Project Leader
    Federation University

    The aim of this review is to determine which indicators would be most practical to improve profitability for Australian farmers.

    This includes examining whether we have suitable data available to measure and monitor trends, the tools to store, share and make this data available as well as determining what additional data is required, how they are best collected and ensuring that the data and tools are available beyond the life of the CRC.

    As a scoping study, the outcomes will guide future CRC projects by providing a comprehensive review of the relevance of reliable, easily measurable and practical soil health and function indicators and their ability to link soil measurements with yield, productivity and profitability.

    Related Programs

    Project 2.1.02

    Is the isotopic composition of bulk soil carbon and nitrogen a robust indicator of agricultural soil health?*

    Project 2.1.01

    Dr Naomi Wells – Project Leader
    Southern Cross University

    The goal of this project is to identify indicators of carbon and nitrogen status in soils that can be used across a wide range of soil types, whilst minimising any possible laboratory bias and also being measurable on archived soil samples.

    To establish farm-relevant indicators of soil health, the complexity of overlapping effects of climate, soil type and management practices need to be considered. Data is required on baseline soil nutrient cycling capacity to connect on-farm measurements to soil health.

    It is anticipated that the proposed research will outline the local ‘soil health’ definitions that will underpin the next 10 years of Soil CRC research of managing high performance soils across Australia’s diverse climatic growing regions.

    *This project has additional funding provided by the NSW Government Department of Industry’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program (RAAP).

    Related Programs

    Project 2.2.01

    Soil sensor technologies – which ones are most useful for smarter farming?

    Project 2.2.01

    Dr Marcus Hardie and Assoc Prof John Bennett – Project Leaders
    University of Tasmania and University of Southern Queensland

    The purpose of the review is to identify existing and prototype soil sensors for consideration by the Soil CRC for investment in research and development.

    The review will focus on proximal (installed in or immediately above the soil), point scale and mobile sensors and sensory systems. The review will consider potential chemical, physical and biological sensors for indicating soil health, function or performance.

    Emphasis will be placed on reviewing sensors for priority soil attributes identified by growers in Project 2.1.01

    Related Programs

    Project 3.1.01

    Review and meta-analysis of waste-derived fertiliser products, nano-porous materials for pesticide delivery, and moisture retention and microbial carrier technologies.

    Project 3.1.01

    Professor Chengrong Chen – Project Leader
    Griffith University

    Intensive agriculture has led to land degradation in some areas. Together with inefficient use of fertiliser and pesticides/herbicides, the productivity and sustainability of many agricultural systems in Australia is greatly limited.

    The aim of this scoping study is to undertake a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of potential values of waste by-products and natural resources in Australia to be used for manufacturing new fertilisers, nano-porous materials for pesticide/herbicide delivery, and moisture retention and microbial carrier products.

    The outcomes will provide recommendations on the priorities for future research investment to meet Program 3 Milestone Output 1 (novel high performance fertiliser products), 2 (new low residual pesticide/ herbicide delivery systems) and 4 (effective delivery of beneficial microorganisms).

    Related Programs

    Project 3.1.02

    Biophysical processes for unlocking the soil nutrient bank to increase soil productivity*.

    Project 3.1.02

    Dr Dane Lamb – Project Leader
    University of Newcastle

    The goal of this project is to understand the reactions of phosphorous fertilisers in soils and the various chemical and biological processes involved in unlocking phosphorous so that crops can use it, thereby increasing the productivity of Australian agricultural soils.

    Although phosphorous is present in significant quantities in many agricultural soils, a majority proportion exists in strongly adsorbed or insoluble inorganic forms, and therefore is not bioavailable to agricultural crops.

    Most modern agriculture systems are heavily reliant on recurrent inputs of nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, calcium, magnesium and trace elements. These nutrients are derived primarily from synthetic fertilisers using nutrient rich mineral resources such as phosphate rock and elemental sulphur. With increasing costs of fertiliser production and decline in the supply of natural mineral resources, farmers face the challenge of ensuring crops have sufficient access to the nutrients they need to thrive.

    *This project has additional funding provided by the NSW Government Department of Industry’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program (RAAP).

    Related Programs

    Project 3.3.01

    Mapping projects on ameliorating soil constraints, and review of soil constraints, products and technologies.

    Project 3.3.01

    Dr Susan Orgill – Project Leader
    NSW Department of Primary Industries

    This project will identify the location, scope and impact of current research investigating soil constraints to agricultural production, and review the major soil constraints to Australian agriculture and the amelioration products and technologies to manage these constraints.

    This project will produce a report based on an objective needs assessment using an economic framework for prioritisation that will be critical in deciding the future research directions for Program 3.

    Related Programs

    Project 4.1.01

    Scoping study to identify and prioritise regional soil constraints.

    Project 4.1.01

    Diana Parsons – Project Leader
    Central West Farming Systems

    This scoping study will consult with end users to identify the key issues that are contributing to lower production due to soil constraints so that the future research of program 4 (with aspects informing Program 3, output 3) can be directed and targeted to deliver outcomes in these areas.

    A key deliverable of this study will be the establishment of formal engagement between researchers and growers in the identification and prioritisation of issues. The on-ground relationships this scoping study will establish will be critical to the successful adoption of future Soil CRC outcomes.

    Related Programs

    Project 4.3.01

    Soil models, tools and data: Current state of play, future directions and setting up for longevity and a legacy from the CRC for High Performance Soils.

    Project 4.3.01

    Dr Keith Pembleton – Project Leader
    University of Southern Queensland

    The suite of decision support systems (DSS) needs to be reviewed and assessed to ensure their effectiveness and their usefulness and longevity beyond the life of the Soil CRC.

    This scoping project will map, review and assess the landscape of the DSS, models and data. Recommendations will be made on how DSS developed through Soil CRC can build on past research to have impact and longevity.

    Related Programs